A business owner and two employees were indicted March 13 for allegedly running a multi-million-dollar, illegal gambling operation at seven locations throughout the state, including one in Doraville.
Big Dawg Calling Cards was owned and operated by James Kokott, 63. Kokott, along with employees James Clemmons, 47, and Marilyn Clemmons, 49, were indicted in DeKalb County for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and DeKalb County officials served search warrants at each of the seven locations on March 13, including the Doraville store at 5979 Buford Highway. Officials seized $20,500 in cash, three handguns, bank records, a gaming machine and controlling server, and 18 computers.
“Through a joint effort with the GBI and other agencies, we have indicted one of the state’s major offenders of illegal gambling—an elaborate scheme that spans multiple counties and involves millions upon millions of dollars,” DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said.
The indictments came as a result of a seven-month undercover investigation by the GBI. Kokott was arrested in Conyers and taken to the DeKalb County Jail, where he is being held without bond. James and Marilyn Clemmons are still at large.
The other locations where Kokott was operating are in Douglas, Rockdale, Troup, Columbus-Muscogee and Dougherty counties.
According to the indictment,
“The businesses would advertise the selling of telephone calling cards for the chance to enter into a sweepstakes. Once someone entered the sweepstakes they would be allowed to play a number of casino-type games on a touchscreen computer. A customer could win or lose their sweepstakes points based on the outcome of the game. At the conclusion of the game the customer could opt to cash out and receive a cash payment.”
During the raid at the Doraville store, officials counted cash and placed seized computers into waiting cars. DeKalb Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicole Marchand said Kokott’s business preyed on the least fortunate residents in the county.
“It’s the folks that have the least amount of money that are participating in these activities and losing their money to the tune of thousands while these defendants reap all of the benefits,” Marchand said.
The indictment states that Kokott owns and controls three separate bank accounts, which he used to fund and “further the illegal gambling operations.” Records show between two of the accounts, Georgia Phone Card LLC and Florida Phone Card LLC, millions of dollars were deposited and withdrawn during 2011.
“We’ve been sending undercover agents into each of these locations to gamble money. Not only have they been gambling, but they’ve been winning and [the suspects were] paying off in cash,” GBI spokesman John Bankhead said.
Bankhead said the investigation is focusing primarily on Kokott and his two employees, not on any of the individual customers who frequented the establishments. He said the operation was “clearly illegal gambling” operating under the guise of a sweepstakes.
“It’s an issue that preys upon the community. We saw an individual in there today that lost $7,000 and to look at him, you wouldn’t think he would be a man of means,” Bankhead said.